Lamp Shades – Everything You Always Wanted To Know

freaking-out-over-your-paint-colors

 

Dear Laurel,

I just found two of the most beautiful lamps at a consignment shop. The woman said that they had just come in and so I snagged them.

Unfortunately, they do not have lamp shades, nor is there even a way to attach a lampshade. It’s just the base, a stem, a socket and then a bulb of some sort.

I know that they make these clip on lampshades, but I have one on a small lamp and it’s pretty horrible. It’s always crooked, no matter how much I fuss with it.

Bouillotte Harper

 

Hey Guys,

I realize that lampshades are difficult. No, wait. That’s not right.

Next-to-impossible!

And one reason why they are difficult is that sometimes the manufacturers don’t even get it right. It’s not a precise science because not all lamps are the same proportions and not all shades are made the same way.

It’s like buying 10 different styles of black socks. Eventually, some go to sock heaven and then none of them work together.

However, I’ve learned a few things over the years. Or at least learned to know what I don’t know, if you know what I mean.

So, let’s jump into our lamp shades

 


By the way— yet another extensive subject, so I’m going to stick to table lamps, today.

Here are most of the lamps that I own. Two of these are part of a pair. Actually, I have three of the one on the left. I have had those lamps for about 17 years.

The little crystal lamp with a clip on drum shade sits in my kitchen. It’s vintage and yes, it’s always a little warble-y. Well, today, I fixed it and then in a characteristic klutzy-Laurel-move, I spazzed out hugely and got caught up in its wire.

Don’t ask me how that happened and then the poor little thing came crashing to the floor. Fortunately, on the rug, or it would have been certain death. Instead, she’s just a tad crooked here. but she’s resting comfortably now, back in the kitchen with a new light bulb. :]

shadeless lamp bases - lamp shades
Lamps De-Shaded. ;]

The two on the left are clip on shades. And yes again. They are never straight!

Actually, I took this image first which is why the turquoise ginger jar is in this one and not in the second one. It didn’t fit with its shade on!

Now, let’s examine the ginger jar for some rules

Well, sorta.

Have I ever told you?

There are NO rules. Well, not hard and fast ones.

 

how to measure a lamp shade
When measuring a lamp shade the way the measurements always go is top, bottom, and side parallel to the side.  I ADORE this shade. It is a more unusual style called a Coolie shade.

 

Farmer in Asia wearing a coolie hatfor obvious reasons.

I got the lamp four and a half years ago on Etsy for 40 bucks! It did not come with a shade, but I had this one on a lamp I wasn’t using and stuck it on and here we are!

Let’s talk lamp shade proportions.

 


Okay, this is our first sticky wicket, is it?  For a NORMAL lamp and a NORMAL lamp shade, the shade should be about 40% of the total height of the lamp. This one is pretty close to that.

The width of the shade is supposed to be double the width of the base. Well, we have a coolie shade that is wider at the bottom in relation to its top than other shades.

It’s actually not far off. It’s hard to tell from a photo.

 

And what about this wonderful buffet lamp from Currey and Company?  No 40% or  50% of anything! I don’t know what the rule is here. And these are also extra tall buffet lamps.

This Gustavian Buffet Lamp is from Visual Comfort.

Or what about this little lamp I found?


The shade is TALLER than the base. I’m not totally crazy about this lamp in any case. But it just goes to show that the rules very often don’t hold.

shadeless ginger jar - no lamp shade
Let’s take a closer look at the ginger jar. We have the base, then the black neck.

But not all lamps have such a long neck. More about that in a sec.

Then, there’s the saddle that the harp sits in and finally the nut and bolt that screws the finial on to keep the lamp shade in place.

Sometimes the issue with the lamp shade being the right size for the lamp isn’t the shade.

 

It’s the harp.

 

Most shades attach with a harp or a clip on. There are some other situations, but since they are far less common, I’m going to uhhhh… leave them off the table. (sorry) :]

The most common type of structure for the shade is a washer and spider fitter.

This is a perfect example of that on my green and gold tole lamp that sits on my two demi-lune tables.

I wish that my black shade had a gold lining, but it’s still gorgeous at night. It’s important to note that a dark shade like this is not going to let any light out the sides. In this case, it’s perfect because the lamps sit in front of the Wisteria mirror and the light is amazing as it gets reflected all over the place.

But getting back to our lamp shade harps.

 

lamp shade harps
On the left is a seven-inch harp and on the right is a six-inch harp. I realize that it looks like more than an inch, but I double checked and the difference is one inch.


The two lamps on the top have the 7 inch harp on the left and 6 inch harp on the right. Normally, I use the harp on the right. I prefer it to sit a little lower on the lamp. And one reason is because of a pet peeve of mine.

With the 7 inch harp, when sitting down as shown in the bottom image, you can see the black stem. This bugs me tremendously and looks like the shade is the wrong size for the lamp. In some cases, the shade might be a little too small. But most likely, the problem is that the harp is too big.

Harps are very inexpensive, so if not sure and you can’t lug the lamp around, just order two or three different sizes. They come in 1/2″ increments.  Do you need harps? Click here.

I have read that the harp is usually an inch or two less than the height of the shade. That is not my experience. It’s more like 3 or 4 inches less!

In the case of my coolie shade, the side measures 12″ and the plumb line down the center measures 10″. Well, that blows that rule out of the water, because if so, then my harp would be 8 inches which would be too big no matter if standing or sitting.

But a seven-inch harp does work for a lot of table lamps.

This is a very pretty blue and white porcelain lamp and the brass neck is attractive. However, I wish that the shade were just about an inch larger. It’s not bad though. Here’s a fabulous collection of blue and white porcelain lamps.

Please note that this is a fabric shade with spines whereas the other shades we’ve seen are all hardback shades.

fabric shade parts - Antique Lamp Supply

Image via Antique Lamp Supply which is also a very good source for more information and lighting supplies.

Are you guys falling asleep yet? :]

The green glass lamp from Jamie Young. (I think it has been discontinued, but you can find some other beautiful Jamie Young products here) is of perfect proportions and follows the 40% of height rule. And it also follows that the base is half as wide as the 15″ drum shade.

BTW, if you are wondering why the lamp cord is coming out of the front of the lamp, there’s a very good reason. The lamp has a gaping hole from damage that occurred when I moved four years ago.

I don’t know what this type of lamp on the left is called. (If you know, please let us know) I got a few of them many years ago and for a client too for her bedroom and another for her entry. Then they discontinued it. It’s a lovely size for a buffet, dresser, console table or book-case too!

The closest I found are these antique Bouillotes, but not quite the same thing.

 My Crystal lamp, lampshade has the clip on the lampshade itself.

shadeless lamp bases - lamp shades

And the French lamp has a clip that goes over the round bulb and then has a washer for the finial. That is a little more secure than the plain clip, i think.

Of course, there’s a lot more about lamp shades to discuss; shapes, styles, fabrics, trims. I guess this wasn’t EVERYTHING you ever wanted to know, but we can keep the conversation going.

If you have any particular questions regarding shades, please ask and I’ll try to answer them. Or if you have a special trick or formula that works every time, please share that too. Oh, and sources for lamp shades. One of my favorites that’s in Laurel’s Rolodex is Oriental Lampshade.

Happy April!

xo,

 

 

 

This post contains affiliate links for products I use myself and/or highly recommend to my clients and blog readers.

 

5th edition rolodex-post-graphic - November 2018 - A unique shopping guide with hundreds of sources created by Laurel Bern

  • Ron van Empel - April 8, 2017 - 11:17 AM

    Hi Laurel,
    This interesting post is right up my alley. Thanks for picking this topic.
    It is true, almost everybody has a hard time figuring out ‘shades’ ….lighting in general. Even high end designers prefer to let their professional ‘lamp showroom/ lamp man’ deal with these matters and need lots of advice on every little detail.
    Before I became a ‘lamp man’ I was a full time interior designer. Already very much into lamps….the other designers within the firm would come to me for advise on lighting for the project they were working on. To make a long story short: lighting became me core business. I think I know a thing or two about it now.
    Regarding the proportion of a shade. The diameter of base/plinth of lamp ( what sit on table ) is in direct correlation to the size of the lower ring of shade. It gives the lamp its visual balance. This is an even more important factor compared to the 40/60 rule. There aren’t really any design rules when it comes to this….it is all about proportion and you just need to have an eye for it….or get some help.
    Regarding the harp thing: if your harp turns out to be too short. A riser can easily fix this. Risers come in several lengths.
    Re the washer spider support system. I will often recommend to place a diffuser on top of the spider. It hides most of all the metal ( spider and harp) that is going on and it prevents you from looking straight into the bulb when you walk passed your lamp. A diffuser cleans up the lamp and is a comfort thing.
    Re the shade with bulb clip attached and the loose clip. True, the shade seldom sits straight ( also often the case with harps) . Very simple to resolve: take shade off the light bulb, gently adjust the clip with your fingers by pushing the actual clips/ears, place it back to test, continue with this process until the shade sits straight. It may take a few tries. Gently…as you do not want the clip to break at the weld on the top ring.
    Your French lamp with the two arms. I would say that is a lovely ‘mixed fantasy’ lamp. Definitely NOT a bouillotte.
    Talking about Bouillotte. Hardest thing to find is a replacement tole shade for bouillotte lamps. That is why I started making these for my own projects, later selling to clients. The way they are mounted/fitted it a bit of a challenge when it comes to making it fit to an existing bouillotte lamp. Often the support stem also needs replacing.
    Last thing I would like to mention:
    If you want your lamp to have a really high end look, invest in a multiple lamp holder cluster. Depending on size of lamp and shade…a double or triple cluster. It looks great and not give any shadow lines a harp may give you when using a plain ‘white hard back’ shade.
    Very final tip: ground rule for light sources. Inside a shade ALWAYS use MATTED bulbs. Why? A clear bulb gives you these hard shadow lines on walls and ceiling. You want soft light washing your walls and ceiling.
    I could go on forever regarding all details about good lighting, but I will stop here.
    I feel a book coming up…….
    I hope my tips may help some of your readers, Laurel. Love your blog and candor.
    Best Ron van EmpelReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - April 8, 2017 - 11:24 AM

      Hi Ron,

      Wow! You’re like the Jonas Salk of lamps and lighting. But great tips/advice and some I had never heard before like the matted bulbs. But it makes a lot of sense too. Thanks so much!ReplyCancel

      • Ron van Empel - April 8, 2017 - 11:41 AM

        Thanks for that big compliment! I had to google Jonas Salk, as he is not a household name in my neck of the woods ( the Netherlands). I think I will start collecting all my thoughts and tips of the trade….write them down and at some point there will enough to publish a book. That would be a dream come true.
        I have this 1952 vintage book called “lighting and lamp design” by Warren E. Cox. In its days, every designer used this book to guide them. It still holds many truths, but it sure is time for an updated version.
        Who knows…if ever I find the time…..ReplyCancel

        • Laurel Bern - April 8, 2017 - 11:53 AM

          Hi Ron,

          Or maybe you are just too young! He invented the polio vaccine! But this is freaky. I subscribe to a fabulous blogging guru Amy Lynn Andrews who writes a weekly round-up of fabulous resources called “The Usesletter.”

          And that comes out every Saturday morning. Well… massive coincidence, she posted a link to a post. It’s about writing a memoir, but the principles would be the same.

          https://janefriedman.com/write-memoir-lists/

          https://madmimi.com/p/b264e9?fe=1&pact=1455358-138549492-5473607603-b4613ef2069d5dca39c05c0283399007a2291965

          She’s a geek for real. That’s today’s useletter link and here’s the link to her site

          https://amylynnandrews.comReplyCancel

          • Ron van Empel - April 8, 2017 - 12:14 PM

            That sure is some coincidence!
            As I do not feel like I am a ‘writer’, this could certainly help in getting more confidence.
            Thank you for being so quick about this and remembering this mornings post of the USELETTER. Nothing wrong with your memory. You are probably also too young. ☺
            I subscribed to the USELETTER for inspiration.
            Starting a blog is not high on my agenda, as my core business ‘lighting’ has me swamped already. But you never know….

  • Susan Davis - April 8, 2017 - 10:36 AM

    Hi Laurel, Wanted to share another option–lamps with a “fitter” use a glass reflector shade combined with a lamp shade. IMHO, these are the best. No glare, no view of ‘ugly’ bulb. Just lovely soft light. I think these are mostly vintage and no idea if a new lamp can be retrofitted with a “fitter”. However, we lucked up when discovering that reflector shades fit our kitchen island lights. Thick glass pushes light down but still provides nice glow through shade; waffle pattern of glass adds subtle interest/texture.

    https://www.amazon.com/Fitters-Reflector-Torchiere-Lamp-
    Shade/dp/B014WJ18HI?th=1

    https://www.amazon.com/Upgradelights-Glass-Floor-Reflector-Shade/dp/B002UJWN3G/ref=pd_sbs_60_1?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_i=B002UJWN3G&pd_rd_r=DCSV0DGHMPJ1K7QTQQPG&pd_rd_w=M3YZh&pd_rd_wg=pqx4s&psc=1&refRID=DCSV0DGHMPJ1K7QTQQPGReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - April 8, 2017 - 11:09 AM

      Hi Susan,

      Yes, I have seen those before. In fact, I think I may have lived with one back in my teens when I lived in a 1930s home in Palo Alto. As an aside, the rent back in 1973 was $165/month for the entire second floor which was about 1,400 sq. feet!ReplyCancel

  • mollie duvall - April 5, 2017 - 4:21 PM

    Laurel, I am a lamp junkie. I would be embarrassed to show you my lamp/shade shelves. Some were purchased new but many are from consignment/thrift stores. I have gorgeous, heavy, brass (circa 1955) Stiffel lamps that cost $20.00 for two!!! Of course, they had no shades but that’s ok….I almost always trade out the shades, even on new lamps. I am lucky to have a wonderful lamp store in my town which has been there for 40+ years and specializes in custom and unique lamps and shades.

    I have a black shade like yours (with the white interior) which bugged me because the interior was very visible (on a low table) and it was messin’ with my color scheme, LOL! My solution was to gold leaf the interior. It didn’t take very long and it looks great. The gold leaf does change the glow coming off of it, though. It will be much warmer, which is what I needed for my room.

    By the way, I love the new Pin It feature. It is easy to add your posts to my WWLD (What Would Laurel Do) board.ReplyCancel

    • HeidiP - June 6, 2017 - 3:07 PM

      Hi!! How did you gold leaf the interior of a lampshade?? I’ve wanted to do that for so long to a black shade !!!ReplyCancel

      • mollie duvall - June 7, 2017 - 7:59 PM

        Heidi, I used the gold leaf product you can purchase at Michael’s or Joann or on Amazon. I just followed the directions…very simple. You apply the adhesive, wait 30 minutes or so, then start applying the sheets. It’s not difficult but does require a bit of patience as those sheets are VERY thin and you will be working on a curved surface. It’s easy to go back and “fill in” if the leaf didn’t make onto every spot. I found that a soft paint brush was very helpful in laying the leaf down – it will stick to your fingers. I have never found the leaf to be too bright (as another poster mentioned) but if I did, I would use some brown wood stain over the leaf to tone it down.ReplyCancel

    • Susan Davis - April 8, 2017 - 11:05 AM

      I have 3 black lamp shades with gold interiors. Two are matte and very pretty. The other is a drum shade with highly reflective gold foil. Fail! The light popped off the interior, too much glare. I used decoupage to layer in gold tissue paper on top of foil, which helped a great deal–Save!ReplyCancel

      • Laurel Bern - April 8, 2017 - 11:11 AM

        Hi Susan,

        Whenever something like that happens to me, I’m always glad it isn’t a client. And it’s just one reason why it’s so important to work with (reasonably) sane, normal people who don’t get bent out of shape about things that aren’t perfect but can be fixed.

        After-all, nothing in our world is perfect!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - April 5, 2017 - 9:01 PM

      Hi Mollie,

      I don’t know if it was this post or a different one where I talked about how lovely gold is inside a black lampshade. My lamps sit at 30″ so, I can’t see inside them.

      You must be looking on your phone because the pin it button has been there for a long time. It’s just a different one. But I couldn’t get it to work on mobile until a couple months ago.ReplyCancel

  • JoAnn - April 3, 2017 - 3:34 PM

    How timely, Laurel! I’ve been on a lamp shade buying binge – new shades for eight lamps since fall. We have a lovely little lamp shade shop which has an abundance of styles in various sizes and colors and all the accessories needed as well as repair services. The shop owner believes it’s essential to bring your lamp in to collaborate on finding a shade perfect for the lamp and its location, the correct harp size and maybe a riser, and a new finial or tassel if desired. She then insists on you seeing the choices in your home. I’ve found that to see the lamp where it sits in my home often makes the choice of shade and harp obvious. New lamp shades can really give your room a fresh new look without the mess of painting and the expense of new furnishings!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - April 4, 2017 - 12:53 AM

      Hi JoAnn,

      Lucky you with such a fabulous source near by!

      I imagine that the lamp lady has learned through experience that these are all necessary steps to have everything looking perfectly and also having satisfied customers!ReplyCancel

  • Jean Marie Layton - April 3, 2017 - 10:17 AM

    Excellent blog…as always, Laurel, you are hand’s-down my favorite design blogger. Your knowledge of interior design/design history/designers is terrific and much appreciated by design afficionados like myself. Lamps and lighting can really make or break a room. I can’t tell you how many trips I’ve made to various retailers looking for the perfect shade– style/color/lighting/material. It’s so much fun! Unfortunately, my tastes often exceed my budget 🙁ReplyCancel

  • Jo Deppe - April 2, 2017 - 8:40 PM

    Lampshade or Lamp shade, just the beginning of rules meant to be broken. I had been selling antique lamps for over 20 years. I am not sure where some of my “rules” originated. When ordering lampshades, the 3 dimensions are top diameter, bottom diameter, and height. The height is measured by setting the shade on a table and using a ruler to measure inside the shade, 90 degrees from the table to the top edge of the shade. The slant side is irrelevant. I fit a shade using the height of the lamp base, measuring from the table top to the start of the hardware.
    An easy way to size a shade is to hold the shade sideways next to the lamp. The bottom diameter of the shade should be equal to the height of lamp base. An exception would be candlestick(tall, skinny) bases. They would use a much smaller diameter bottom.
    The height of shade can vary with trends and personal preferences. My favorite shade is the bell shape with the bottom gradually curving out. And don’t forget scalloped bottoms, pleating, ruching, and all manner of trims.
    Your little glass candlestick lamp with the prisms, falls under the “vanity lamp” catagory in my world, common from the 1920s into the 1960s, using all manner of stacked glass parts. Vanity lamps were frequently used in pairs, I have even had some that came wired up as a set, sharing one plug. They usually had clip on shades, often with lace trims.

    Now big box retailers are using european lamp shade fittings, and things are getting really muddy.

    Laurel, I don’t envy your next task, trying to cover the world of floor lamps and their shades. I see so many that could use help. If you have questions about vintage lamps, I could try to help. Those little brass stems to raise shades a little higher on the harps are called shade risers. They are 1/2″ up to 2″ sizes.
    And I want to thank you for your blog. Just writing this little comment, I see how hard it is to explain things. Your paint color tips allow me to focus on other things, saving me hours of frustration. We see eye to eye on so many things. This is my first comment to any blog, ever.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - April 2, 2017 - 9:17 PM

      Hi Jo,

      Thank you so much for all of that. And I’m honored for your first blog comment!

      It IS difficult to explain all of this. I think the take away I like the best is to watch the size of the harp.

      But styles change. Everything is so much bigger than it was 15-20 years ago.

      I may let the floor lamps fend for themselves. ReplyCancel

  • Crone - April 2, 2017 - 3:26 PM

    Love your topics, and the information is invaluable.

    But I would like to know what the wall color of your room is? It’s a beautiful warm yellow.

    Thanks.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - April 2, 2017 - 4:07 PM

      Hi Crone,

      Thanks so much! It really is and I am not a “yellow person.” It’s Benjamin Moore Hawthorne Yellow – hc-4.

      My apartment had been recently painted and when I walked in, it was so sunny and warm and I thought it would be fun to work with, so I kept it.ReplyCancel

  • Jennifer Masters - April 2, 2017 - 11:51 AM

    Hi Laurel,
    Lampshades give me problems. I find that sometimes ones which seem white or cream give off a dark/yellowy look that I don’t find appealing, and conversely some light shades give off a very harsh clinically white light. Is there any way to avoid that or anything to look for in a shade which will help give off an appealing light? Thanks in advance 🙂ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - April 2, 2017 - 12:03 PM

      Hi Jennifer,

      Well… it’s true. Light coming through a cream shade can look positively yellow if not gold when the light is on.

      But then, there’s issue of bulbs. What color is the light they are giving off? Or lumens or kelvins or whatever the terminology is that I’m so damned belligerent in wanting to even know more about?

      At heart, I’m an old-fashioned girl, but with a modern edge. The OF part of me wants my light to be warm– like candle light. I find very white light to be cold and depressing.

      So, the answer might be the bulbs, not the shade. I usually like a white shade (if doing white) with just a touch of cream in it. But it depends what else is going on.ReplyCancel

      • Jennifer Masters - April 2, 2017 - 12:57 PM

        Thanks Laurel…if the bulbs are to blame, is there one good all purpose one that you would recommend? The bulbs actually make me crazy as well, and I never know what to buy for just a basic lamp.ReplyCancel

        • Laurel Bern - April 2, 2017 - 1:00 PM

          Well, I like the soft white incandescent bulbs. They are the ones they make now that are more energy efficient. That’s certainly fine. I find that the ones that are about 43 watts – equivalent of about 60 watts are just fine.

          A common mistake I see is people over-lighting their lamps. In fact, some of the lamps are on dimmers because for me, even 60 watts is too much.

          If you are using LEDs the sweet spot, I find is 2700 kelvins. Hope that helps!ReplyCancel

  • Paula MoresheadPaula - April 2, 2017 - 10:42 AM

    I had such fun reading this post and learned some things, too! You can’t get any better than that, in my opinion. I’m another one of your fans who gets happy whenever I see a new post pop up in my email.:)

    I do agree that lamp shades can be a challenge, and I happen to love lamps. But, sometimes getting just the ride shade can be very expensive and can cost more than the price of the lamp! I’ve bought several over the years at yard sales, mainly the metal tole lamps because they have the type of shades that don’t break or ever have to be replaced. I think you could write a book on this topic, and I look forward to the next installment.

    AReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - April 2, 2017 - 11:28 AM

      Hi Paula,

      Thank you so much!

      Yes, a book about residential lighting with a section– not just a chapter, but a section just for lamp shades could be in it.

      And yes, custom lampshades can be several hundred dollars or more if very detailed.

      But there are also a lot of inexpensive varieties for those who can’t afford fully custom, hand-made.ReplyCancel

      • Dolores - April 4, 2017 - 7:14 AM

        Hi Laurel,
        I just came across an ETSY store that will make custom lampshades with a customers’ own fabric- and the prices seem very reasonable! I have been pining for a fabric shade such as those sold through Ben Pentreath- or Robert Kime- but that would have to wait until I win the big one..:-)
        I’m going to go for it and have them make me a custom shade..

        Cruel Mountain Custom LampshadesReplyCancel

  • Joy - April 2, 2017 - 10:16 AM

    Hi Laurel, I look forward to your blog every Sunday…love the Paint Collection and Rolodex too.

    For some unknown reason, I really love lamps and can’t understand how some people can replace them so frequently. A great lamp can last forever. I have 2 green crackle ginger jar lamps I bought 38 years ago and I wouldn’t dream of replacing them. They seem to work in almost any room.

    Depending on the location of the lamp and the flow of the room, I generally like to see a bit of the neck because when standing, some lamps can look squatty if the shade sits too low.

    My advise is if your lamp doesn’t have a neck or it isn’t attractive, have it added or changed. Changes to the base can be an improvement too.

    The harp size can vary depending on the shade selected. I prefer oval or rectangular shades bedside because they fit well against the wall and don’t take up the whole surface of the table.

    Finally, a finial is like jewelry, a small thing that can make an impact….and never get rid of a wonderful white lamp… sorry this is so long but love the topic so I’m looking forward to your next installment.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - April 2, 2017 - 11:23 AM

      Hi Joy,

      There is no such thing as a comment that’s too long unless they are asking me to decorate their home based on their description in the comment. haha.

      Wonderful advice about lamps. Thanks for sharing all of that! I was hoping some would, so I appreciate the help.

      While there are so, so many more options, there are also a lot of options that I abhor. I think I covered some of that in the post about table lamps. Lamps keep getting bigger and bigger! Drives me nuts. But the upholstery keeps getting bigger too. Interesting, homes are getting smaller… hmmmm…

      And yes, I didn’t even get into shade shape. I thought about it, but had to draw the line somewhere. I think we’ve all seen if it’s a square lamp, a square shade, etc… Well, that’s not necessarily true. Like I said, there are few hard and fast rules in design. That doesn’t mean that anything goes either. There is a lot of logic, however. I think that some don’t take the time to use it, it seems.ReplyCancel

  • Cindy - April 2, 2017 - 9:30 AM

    Great article! And don’t forget to mention the filler you can buy to raise the finial. I once bought one for a lamp, and it was the same antique brass tone as the lamp, just over an inch long – another way to adapt a shade or harp that isn’t the perfect size.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - April 2, 2017 - 11:04 AM

      Hi Cindy,

      That’s a good one. I’ve never bought one, but I’ve seen them. Sometimes the spider is so low that the finial gets lost. I was going to post about some sources for beautiful finials. One of them, the fabulous designer, Hillary Thomas, seems to have closed her charming online shop. I loved her finials and she had some pretty lamp shades too.ReplyCancel

  • Cynthia Lambert - April 2, 2017 - 9:05 AM

    The coolie style lampshade is also known as a Madeleine Castaing shade, as she favoured that style in her design. The unnamed lamp on the left in your display is a candelabra lamp. And a short lesson about the bouillotte lamp (which I adore and have several): The lamp was made specifically to play the game of bouillotte in the 18th century. The 20th century equivalent would be poker. The players sat around a round table – yes, a bouillotte table, still known that way today. The bouillotte lamp, usually having three candles, sat in the middle of the table. It had a cup at the bottom for chips, which were often carved mother-of-pearl. As the game went on and the candles burnt down, the tole shade was lowered, so that the candle flames would not shine in the players’ eyes.
    I have made a few of my own lampshades, and it is a favourite subject of mine. I even once interviewed with Blanche Field, the Cadillac of shade makers. They have been making lampshades for over 100 years.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - April 2, 2017 - 11:00 AM

      Hi Cynthia,

      Thank you so much for your always insightful comments! I always learn so much from you. I must look up Madeleine Castaing. Very interesting about the history of the bouillotte and now I know what the rod is for. I knew it had to be for a good reason! I love the tole bouillottes.

      The other thing I learned that I wasn’t sure about but tried to find is– is it lamp shade or lampshade? I supposed that either is correct. I think I used both in the text, but if you think that saying lamp shade makes me sound like a hillbilly, lol I’ll change it.ReplyCancel

      • Cynthia Lambert - April 2, 2017 - 1:25 PM

        Laurel, I always learn from you as well. We are a symbiotic society! Hehe. Lamp shades and lampshades are both correct, so you can’t go wrong there. And one thing I forgot to mention as far as flattering light from a lampshade. The society grande dames always had their lamp shades (from Blanche Field, of course) lined in light pink silk. It gives a lovely glow to the complexion and to the room. If you come to Hudson, I’ll take you to my brother’s lighting store on the main street of town. He sells only LEDs and it’s a real eye opener. They can be every shade, cool or warm, and everything in between, and now nearly every shape. And you should see my LED candles. They are unbelievable.ReplyCancel

  • Mary - April 2, 2017 - 8:36 AM

    Great article! I thought I would add a link that shows how to straighten a lampshade that has a uno-fitter. ( IKEA or Target lamps.)
    http://www.shineyourlightblog.com/fix-crooked-lampshade/ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - April 2, 2017 - 10:54 AM

      Hi Mary,

      That’s a clever idea for that type of fitter. Thanks for sharing!ReplyCancel

  • Lani Moses - April 2, 2017 - 7:13 AM

    Great info On llampshades Laurel…..I’ve found that clip on shades don’t slip around as much if they are on a frosted bulb….not perfect but better 🙂
    Thanks for fun posts that really give us good tips.
    LaniReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - April 2, 2017 - 10:33 AM

      Hi Lani,

      Oh wow! That’s a great tip. I hadn’t thought of that, but I’m going to get frosted from now on for my clip ons.ReplyCancel

  • Laura sunderlin - April 2, 2017 - 7:05 AM

    Loved this and also how much you appreciate the importance of light. Especially the importance of table and floor lamps. I almost never turn on an overhead…

    By the way, would you mind sharing the paint color on the walls in your first picture?ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - April 2, 2017 - 10:32 AM

      Hi Laura,

      I think that lighting is everything. Having bad lighting even in a beautifully decorated room is like a beautiful woman with a bad sunburn, no makeup and frizzy hair. The room is just not going to look very good.

      The wall color is Benjamin Moore Hawthorne Yellow hc-4. My apartment came that way, so I decided to work with it. :]ReplyCancel

  • Janie - April 2, 2017 - 6:35 AM

    Thanks Laurel, I have been putting off shade shopping because I find it to be so difficult! This has been a great help!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - April 2, 2017 - 10:29 AM

      Hi Janie,

      Glad it’s helpful. I was feeling like there’s so much that’s not covered because there are different types of fitters and so many different lamp shapes and sizes. And dozens of different shade types and sizes.

      I’m trying to limit the time spent on writing a post to 10-12 hours. haha ReplyCancel

  • pve - April 2, 2017 - 6:31 AM

    You must meet “Shandells” – Susan does the most fabulous lampshades. She is a miracle light worker of shades.
    PvEReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - April 2, 2017 - 10:27 AM

      Hi PVE,

      I worked with a woman 20 years ago, Sue Wellott, who also made fabulous shades. Shades From The Midnight Sun, I believe her business was called. But most of my clients could not afford the prices. I tried finding her yesterday, but could not.ReplyCancel

  • Parnassus - April 2, 2017 - 5:30 AM

    Hello Laurel, Thanks for all the tips. We will be replacing a few shades soon, and will take all this into account.

    One other good idea for lamps is to replace the small twist knobs that many of them have with the brass key type, which are very inexpensive. We did this with all of my mother’s lamps, and now they are much easier to operate, and the knobs don’t dig into your fingers.
    –JimReplyCancel

  • Betty - April 2, 2017 - 5:12 AM

    So glad to see something on lamp shades, the bane of my existence. I usually just keep the shade that comes with the lamp and save myself a lot of aggravation, even though that is the wimps way out. I’m looking at the lamps in my living room; two floor, two table and a cute tiny lamp that sits on my Mother’s singer sewing machine. Not one of them fits correctly with the exception of the tiny lamp which is perfect. How do I figure out the size for floor lamps? My one floor lamp that was a great find (in my opinion) came with a barrel type shade that clearly does not belong with this lamp and is always crooked. I won’t say how many years I’ve had it always moving the shade to try and balance it to center. Will shades for floor lamps be next on the agenda? Have a lovely day.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - April 2, 2017 - 10:18 AM

      Hi Betty,

      I usually go with the shade that comes with the lamp too. OR, if it’s a custom company like Jamie Young for instance, I’ll discuss with customer service the best size.

      They are always good about sending the correct size harp too. So, it’s not something that I ever had to give a lot of attention to— unless there was no shade– only a base. For clients, that only happened a handful of times. If we needed a new shade, I would look at the harp size to see if it was working or not.

      It sounds like either something is missing on your lamp or the system is one that doesn’t work so well.ReplyCancel

  • Ron van Empel - April 2, 2017 - 2:48 AM

    Hi Laurel,
    This interesting post is right up my alley. Thanks for picking this topic.
    It is true, almost everybody has a hard time figuring out ‘shades’ ….lighting in general. Even high end designers prefer to let their professional ‘lamp showroom/ lamp man’ deal with these matters and need lots of advice on every little detail.
    Before I became that ‘lamp man’ I was a full time interior designer. Already very much into lamps….the other designers within the firm would come to me for advise on lighting for the project they were working on. To make a long story short: lighting became me core business. I think I know a thing or two about it now.
    Regarding the proportion of a shade. The diameter of base/plinth of lamp ( what sit on table ) is in direct correlation to the size of the lower ring of shade. It gives the lamp its visual balance. This is an even more important factor compared to the 40/60 rule. There aren’t really any design rules when it comes to this….it is all about proportion and you just need to have an eye for it….or get some help.
    Regarding the harp thing: if your harp turns out to be too short. A riser can easily fix this. Risers come in several lengths.
    Re the washer spider support system. I will often recommend to place a diffuser on top of the spider. It hides most of all the metal ( spider and harp) that is going on and it prevents you from looking straight into the bulb when you walk passed your lamp. A diffuser cleans up the lamp and is a comfort thing.
    Re the shade with bulb clip attached and the loose clip. True, the shade seldom sits straight ( also often the case with harps) . Very simple to resolve: take shade off the light bulb, gently adjust the clip with your fingers by pushing the actual clips/ears, place it back to test, continue with this process until the shade sits straight. It may take a few tries. Gently…as you do not want the clip to break at the weld on the top ring.
    Your French lamp with the two arms. I would say that is a lovely ‘mixed fantasy’ lamp. Definitely NOT a bouillotte.
    Talking about Bouillotte. Hardest thing to find is a replacement tole shade for bouillotte lamps. That is why I started making these for my own projects, later selling to clients. The way they are mounted/fitted it a bit of a challenge when it comes to making it fit to an existing bouillotte lamp. Often the support stem also needs replacing.
    Last thing I would like to mention:
    If you want your lamp to have a really high end look, invest in a multiple lamp holder cluster. Depending on size of lamp and shade…a double or triple cluster. It looks great and not give any shadow lines a harp may give you when using a plain ‘white hard back’ shade.
    Very final tip: ground rule for light sources. Inside a shade ALWAYS use MATTED bulbs. Why? A clear bulb gives you these hard shadow lines on walls and ceiling. You want soft light washing your walls and ceiling.
    I could go on forever regarding all details about good lighting, but I will stop here.
    I feel a book coming up…….
    I hope my tips may help some of your readers, Laurel.
    Love your blog and candor.
    Best Ron van EmpelReplyCancel

    • Lorie Moreton - June 25, 2017 - 11:33 AM

      Hope you do your book I would be interested. Where do you work out of, i am a Designer in Chicago. Loved your tips. LorieReplyCancel

      • Laurel Bern - June 25, 2017 - 1:07 PM

        Hi Lorie,

        I have no plans for a hard-cover book if that is what you are referring to. But thank you so much; I’m immensely flattered!ReplyCancel